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When the base Monster Hunter Rise first released, it was a solid effort that returned some of Monster Hunter’s roots to the mix while keeping some of the modern conventions from the beloved Monster Hunter World. But there was a lot missing, too. As has become a series staple, Rise contained Low and High Rank quests, relegating Master, or G Rank, quests to the expansion. However, an issue that Rise had in this regard was a bit too little meat on its bone, which is surprising given how much game is normally included with each base iteration.
This is not to say that there wasn’t a lot of game to Rise. It had a healthy selection of monsters, 7 star progression in both the Village and the Gathering Hub, and a slew of new innovations. It also included the not-so-well regarded Rampage quests, which failed to meet any potential they had. However, Rise also lacked monster variants when it first released. Many were added after the release, but, for some, those additions seemed too few and late to the table. More substance was desired.
That substance is called Sunbreak, and it doesn’t just add more to the table, it adds another table right next to it, filled with all of the fixings. Sunbreak’s first order of business was to distance itself from the Rampage nonsense, and it was a wise move. It then added the Master Rank of quests, and it brings a new hub area to the mix with a much more interesting story to boot. No one will ever claim to play a Monster Hunter game for its story, but it is always nice to have a decent narrative driving the progress.
While vanilla Rise was all about defending against the brute force of the Rampage, Sunbreak brings mystery to the mix. The new medieval-inspired hub is experiencing some uncanny events, and a bit of detective work is needed to bring the truth to light. Of course, this means beating the parts off of monsters until that mystery is solved. And that, in turn, means all sorts of new and interesting monsters await to convert into beautiful pieces of armor and weaponry. While the tale will keep you at least somewhat interested, your desire for a new pair of monster shoes will be your true motivation.
It is unfortunate, then, that the new monsters are mostly relegated to the second half of the expansion. For the first half, you’ll face off against many of the original monsters and variants found within Rise’s repertoire, albeit wearing their Master Rank best. Still, it is very much enjoyable to hunt higher-end versions of these creatures of chaos, especially when moving around the two new, spectacular maps.
Jungle is the first of these, and it has a nice verticality to it with a circular nature, ensuring that continuing the hunt with a fleeing foe is never more than a moment or two away. It feels great, fitting like a glove with Rise’s original maps. The second of these areas, however, is one of the greatest maps in Monster Hunter history. Citadel is its name, and it throws the gauntlet down on map design. I was so blown away by the secrets, flow, and variety of every part of the map that I spent a few quests just exploring every nook and cranny of it. And when fighting the monsters on Citadel, it feels absolutely epic, with arena-type areas filled with elevation changes and artistic backdrops that are awe-inspiring.
The new monsters are a joy to fight, too, with a boss monster that feels truly epic. Whether hunting alone or in a group of up to four, the balance feels fantastic. Master Rank brings the original monsters up to speed as well, and these fights can be quite the spectacle. The monsters bare all of their teeth and claws, so players need to come equipped with the best gear and strategies.
New strategies abound in Sunbreak, which adds a plethora of new Switch Skill moves for each class of weapon. Also, Sunbreak adds a Switch Skill Swap ability, allowing players to not only register several Switch Skill loadouts, but to equip two of these loadouts at once, swapping to either at any moment. This offers a huge piece of strategy to the mix as players will use their best style loadouts to begin a quest, but now have the utility to switch to a style more advantageous when situations present themselves. Thinking about how best to counter a monster’s move sets and tendencies with the many Switch Skills on offer had me giddy at the possibilities.
Rise already had fantastic gameplay, streamlining the thrilling mechanics of World into something reminiscent of the legacy Monster Hunter games while maintaining World’s sublime play and flow. Monsters feel much more alive, leaving the mechanical and methodical AI in the past. As such, hunters have to be alert to every tell and nuance that a monster betrays, especially in Master Rank. But even if you are playing solo, you don’t have to always bear the entire burden on your own shoulders.
When you register to take on a quest, you will often have help going along with you. Sunbreak delivers a new follower system, where certain quests will offer an ally to battle beside you. Each of these followers has their own weapon style, and they each are quite competent. You’ll often hear them providing shout-outs when a monster enrages or readies up a high-damage maneuver. They can and will use the environment to their advantage, setting traps and even riding other monsters to aid the cause, should the opportunity arise.
These followers will be offered for many of the main quests in the game, but they are also a part of a new set of quests specifically for followers. As you tackle these assignments, your followers will become more comfortable with you, allowing you to call for their aid when you tackle future missions. Monster Hunter loves to experiment with new gameplay aspects (such as Rise’s Rampages), which don’t always work, but this follower system needs to stay in the series. It allows for some digital camaraderie that helps the characters to be more engaging, making any semblance of a story that much more tangible.
Something that Capcom has done well with the Monster Hunter series, especially lately, is to fully support these titles. Monster Hunter games get more support than nearly any other game I can think of. There are always quality of life adjustments, balancing patches, new monsters added, seasonal festivals that happen throughout each year, more quests that often include guest characters or inspirations from other media franchises, and so much more. Sunbreak already brings a slew of improvements, including systems that give even further depth to even small things like the Argosy, Buddy Expeditions, and the Lottery. But Capcom has already announced even more exciting things to come.
Of course, those things are not in the package as of the time of this writing, and none of it honestly needs to be. It is great to get new things, but Sunbreak already brings so much, with its biggest achievement in providing a sense of “closure” to Rise’s biggest weakness: end game content. Monster Hunter Rise was an amazing game, but as previously noted, it was lacking in terms of substance, especially with the Rampage quests being a miss. Though much was added to Rise since it first launched, Sunbreak doubles down, adding not only a substantial helping of new monsters and quests, but also providing plenty to do after the credits roll.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sunbreak’s world. The gameplay loop provides a cathartic state of bliss, ensuring the player always has something exciting just ahead. From new weapons, armor, and monsters, to the new characters, hub area, and maps, including one of the best maps you’ll find in the entire series, Sunbreak delivers quantity AND quality. Though it takes a bit to get going, rehashing many older monsters before any new ones are seen, it’s still fun to dive into the Master Quests. There is always something fun to do, and there is always something to look forward to doing after. Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak is one of the best expansions to a game yet, and, if you’re like me, you will be playing it until the sun breaks and beyond.